Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Yesterday my company had Bill Andre, one of the Commuter Connection guys, standing outside our building for 2 hours zapping bikes.   This will make sense in a minute.  Anyway, since we have strict requirements about who can be at our building we were asked to send a bikey-type representative to hang out with Bill and make sure he didn't get up to any nefarious doings (he didn't).

Bill came on this yellow trike with bags full of bits and bobs, the purpose of which he explained to just about every cyclist who entered our building between 6:30 and 8:30 AM.  You can see Bill's back to the far right as he talks Zapping to a cyclist.  I didn't think to actually take a decent picture of him.

This is Bill's seat cover, as it was threatening rain all morning.  It's nice because it will actually keep his seat dry and also advertises his cause.  He gave me an identical one for being such a good helper.  Lucky!

So if you haven't hear of it's a new bike tracking program.  Not designed to track you a la PRISM, but designed to track how many bikes are out and about.  They attach a little plastic device to your front wheel as seen below:
 And there are dozens of Zap Stations around town.  Whenever your front wheel (and hopefully the rest of your bike and you) passes by one of these stations, there's some electronic magic and it records that you were there.  I checked the map to see which ones were near my commuting route and rode by a few just to see what happened.  For such a small sensor, the range is pretty impressive.  There's an audible "ping" when your zap thing is read, and I heard it from out in the bike lane on Portland and I also heard it from the Greenway (there's a reader by the Freewheel shop).  I slowed down a bit just because I wasn't sure it would work, but I think it would probably read you at speed.

The folks at Commuter Connection want to use all the data they collect to augment the manual bike counts and really get some every day hard data.  They plan to use this data to help build their business case in grant writing, helping cyclists get reimbursement from their HMO for activity and a bunch of other stuff that's good for cyclists.

Coming in the next few weeks they are going to integrate the Bike Sharing system into their zapping.  So every time you take a bike share bike you can have a zap recorded as well.  They have rewards for how many zaps you get.  If you're a Type A person, you an online dashboard so you can see how you compare to other registered cyclists (competition!).  And you are also eligible to win prizes based on the number of zaps you get.

At this point, you're probably wondering how you can get zapped yourself.  If you're reading this in a timely manner, it's currently Bike to Work week in the Twin Cities.  Bill is going to have a tent at the downtown Minneapolis commuter celebration tomorrow (Thursday, June 16, 2013) for the Bike to Work Day celebration at Government Plaza and he'll be zapping bikes.  He also said he hangs out on Nicollet Mall every Thursday looking for folks to zap.  And you can always call the Commuter Connection place and set up a time.  They'll come down to street level and take care of it.  Takes about 2 minutes.  St. Paulites, I didn't get the full story but I am assuming that they can help you out as well.

My one daughter had swim lessons last night, and the other daughter had her weekly Summer Orchestra rehearsal.  My wife took the swimmer, and we carpooled with another orchestra kid, which left me with a couple hours of alone time.  So, since it was a beautiful night and I'd already had my bike ride for the day I pulled out the scooter and just cruised around for an hour or so.  I found some fun twisty roads and learned that Dodd Road will take you right into St Paul.  I also visited the Pilot Knob Open Space, because I hadn't been there before.

I added this bit of whimsy to the access panel on the scooter.  However, I don't believe that the scooter will make it to 88mph unless I can lay my hands on some plutonium...